Last weekend, I tweeted what could very well be interpreted as a compassionless comment in which I said I had no sympathy for Amy Winehouse. Â While my seemingly heartless tweet was met mostly with agreement, I feel the need to qualify my statement. Â As I said in response to another comment on the Facebook page, I suppose I’m a bit callous and jaded, but when you’ve seen as much destruction drugs can do as I have, it tends to have that effect
I read a commentary by Russell Brand (yes, that one) about the death of Ms Winehouse. Â You can read it here. Â I found his post both moving and interesting for a couple of reasons. Â First off, I’m obviously not an addict, recovering or otherwise, so his point of view was one that I had not considered. Â It was well written and heartfully so. Â The care Brand carries for Winehouse is palpable. Â One can almost insert oneself into his mind and see the affection he held for her.
There is one thing I take an exception to in Brand’s treatise: Criminalization. Â Â While I understand his desire to get addicts free from their disease (on this I can’t but agree…it is truly a sickness), Brand’s position regarding the decriminalization of drugs strikes me as not only naive but dangerous as well. Â While your average addict may not get the assistance they need from an incarceration setting, I assure you there are programs inside the corrections system designed specifically for those that suffer from the disease of addiction. Â Keep in mind,Â sending them to prison for drug charges is typically in conjunction with some other crime they committed in order to support their habit.
Case in point: We recently arrested (on two different occasions, by the way) a mother of a 2-year-old little girl. Â The first was for battering her own mother; the second for drug related charges. Â This woman is a user…she is also a seller. Â She is selling dope to further her own habit. Â She is so bad, in fact, that when she was eight months pregnant, she was arrested for being under the influence of meth. Â The officer that arrested her charged her with felony child endangerment as well. Â I say bravo. Â The DA “liked his thinking” but ultimately didn’t file that charge (yet another issue I have with prosecutors).
This mother is not unique. Â She, and those of her ilk, are frequently responsible for an untold number of property crimes. Â Dope is a victimless crime? Â Tell that to the citizen (albeit stupid citizen) that left his/her laptop in plain sight in a locked vehicle. Â The result of their ignorance is a smashed window and a stolen laptop. Â There are a multitude of folks just like her that will lie, cheat, and steal for their habit. Â You know what that is? Â That’s criminal. Â I may not be an addict myself, but I can attest to the veracity of that statement. Â When I was younger, I had a friend living with us. Â He was an addict. Â Crack, specifically. Â He stole from us. Â He lied to us. Â I was very fond of him and still wish that our offers of assistance were met with more positive results, but his disease was more important to him that our relationship. Â (23 years later, I interviewed him in a Â professional capacity in the local lock-up).
On a larger scale, I have a serious problem with society lauding the “27 club” as damn near an honorable thing. Â They were a slew of extremely troubled, yet talented, kids. Â They ultimately succumbed to the demon of their own creation. Â Their fame became bigger than them and they paid the ultimate price to ride that fame train. Â One can’t argue the sheer talent of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Winehouse. Â They died from years of drug/alcohol abuse. Â I realize the literal cause of death of each may not be blamed on drugs (in Cobain’s case, he committed suicide using a shotgun), but I would argue one can draw an easy line between their eventual death and a long, catalogued history of abuse.
I wish our prison/jail cells weren’t filled with drug offenders. Â I wish they were getting the help they needed. Â The brutal reality of it, as Brand says, the addict has to be the one to ask for that help. Â In my experience, until they make that leap, the only thing they understand, much like the rest of society, is that actions have consequence. Â It isn’t until those consequences get to be overwhelming and they are no longer willing to pay for them (in whatever fashion that may be) that the help they truly need will be accepted.
Until then, I will continue to arrest them and prevent their addiction/disease/affliction from negatively impact the rest of the citizenry. Â Try explaining to a woman, now a single mother with four children, that the man who drove under the influence of alcohol/drugs/prescription meds was “sick” when he killed her husband and the father of her children.
What do you think? Â Is addiction a disease that should be treated as such or is it more?
For a non-LEO point of view regarding the passing of Ms Winehouse, visit Jeff Goins. Â He has some insights about fame and celebrity.
Photo Credit: Flickr and Reverendo Franklin